VOL. 133 | NO. 68 | Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Perry Leading Fire Museum Forward as Executive Director
By Kate Simone
Shannon Perry (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
Shannon Perry became executive director of the Fire Museum of Memphis earlier this year, a role that brings her back to the institution she helped launch in the 1990s, when she served as its first curator. As executive director, Perry is the Fire Museum’s only full-time employee, and she handles a range of functions – including its collection, exhibits and facilities, budgets, fundraising, public relations, special events, staff and volunteers – while also working directly with the museum’s board.
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee, by way of the Philippines, and several military duty stations (My father is a retired Navy captain.)
Experience: I began my nearly 20-year museum career in Memphis, first at the Dixon Gallery (after I graduated from James Madison University in 1994), and then at the Fire Museum, where I was its first curator. After my husband and I moved to Washington, D.C., in 1999, I completed an M.A. in art history at the University of Maryland, then spent more than a decade working for the Smithsonian, first at the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and later for the Smithsonian American Art Museum. For the last three years prior to returning to Memphis, I was the collections manager of the McClung Museum at UT Knoxville.
What talent do you wish you had? I wish I could be in multiple places at once.
Who has had the greatest influence on you and why? My parents – my mother taught me patience, and my father taught me persistence.
You were on the Fire Museum’s initial staff before it opened Downtown in 1998. With the museum now approaching 20 years old, how does it match up with the vision the staff had in the ’90s? In many ways, the museum has met or surpassed our vision for long-term success and relevance to the Memphis community. In the last 20 years, we have been able to educate more than 200,000 Memphis/Shelby County Schools children on fire safety and prevention (for free!), and we have promoted fire safety to thousands and thousands more of all ages. In recent years, many major exhibits have been upgraded to keep up with improving technology, keeping the museum relevant for younger audiences.
What do you see as the long-term path forward for the museum? Like so many nonprofit organizations, we have to raise money and continue to gather community support! In recent years, our school group attendance has diminished. Grant funding that paid for schools’ travel expenses has run out, and we need to find new sponsors to help us bring in as many children as possible in order to extend our programming. This is critically important to fulfilling our mission to save lives through fire safety education.
And what’s more immediate on the horizon? We plan to continue our recent upgrades to exhibit technology and to focus on new ways to interpret our historical collection. We have some amazing unseen artifacts waiting in the wings for us to put on display! We will bring in more of our community with events and programming, beginning with a huge celebration of our 20th anniversary in October. Our “new” building (constructed when the museum opened in 1998) is now 20 years old, so we also have some urgent needs to replace our roof and HVAC systems as they age.
When the Fire Museum was founded, one of the goals was to reduce the city’s high fire fatality rate through education. Has the rate decreased since then? When the museum was conceived in the early 1990s, Memphis’ fire fatality rate was more than 2 1/2 times the national average, with an all-time high of 41 fire deaths in 1988. Fire deaths have decreased significantly since then, to a record low of only five Memphis fire deaths in 2017.
Take us behind the scenes: What don’t Memphians know about the Fire Museum? This museum succeeds because of the support of our local firefighters. Over 800 firefighters contribute money out of their own paychecks every month to support the museum, helping us to operate and fulfill our mission every day. Some firefighters have been contributing out of every paycheck since 1998.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? I have a 5-year-old daughter. She is smart, lovely and very entertaining.
What do you most enjoy about your work? Museums give us a chance to explore ideas and history in a tangible, visual way. I love being part of preserving and sharing those ideas.
If you could give one piece of advice to young people, what would it be? Seek the knowledge you need to accomplish your dreams – read books, ask questions and look for great teachers (they are out there).
Inferno has expanded with the addition of four new employees. AJ Jackson, hired as human resources manager, holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Belhaven University and previously worked in human resources at First Tennessee Bank, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Medtronic. McKenzie Nelson, art director, graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design; her first job out of college was illustrating a children’s book that was released on Amazon in November. Natalie Holcomb, who joined inferno as account executive, previously worked as the marketing and communications coordinator at the University of Memphis. And Phoebe Moore, director of project management, previously worked as a marketing manager at a security company for several years before accepting a position in the traffic department at an ad agency.
The American Institute of Family Law Attorneys has recognized Nick Rice, an attorney at Rice, Amundsen, Caperton PLLC, as Five Years 10 Best Family Law Attorney for Client Satisfaction. The AIOFLA is a third-party attorney rating organization that publishes an annual list of the Top 10 Family Law Attorneys in each state. Selection to the list is based on client and/or peer nominations, thorough research, and AIOFLA’s independent evaluation.
Memphian Journi Prewitt has been named to The Root’s 2018 class of Young Futurists, an annual list of 25 African-Americans ages 15-22 who are rising stars in business, science/technology, the arts, social justice and the environment. Prewitt, 17, was honored for creating Black Butterfly Box, a monthly subscription service that encourages reading and learning black history, while also promoting self-confidence in young black girls.
Mark Louderback has joined Guidingpoint Financial Group, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., as a financial adviser. Louderback, who is based in Guidingpoint’s Cordova office, comes to the firm with six years’ experience as a financial adviser with Edward Jones. He is licensed as an investment adviser and registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority as a broker.
Michael P. Coury, an attorney with Glankler Brown PLLC, has been appointed regent for the Sixth Circuit of the American College of Bankruptcy. The Sixth Circuit covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. As regent, Coury will serve as chair of the Sixth Circuit admissions council and as a member of the board of regents, which has the sole authority to elect fellows to the college. Coury focuses his practice on bankruptcy and creditors’ rights law, business reorganizations, workouts, and business and commercial litigation.